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Varnes, Osvald and Maire (Hostad)

by Pat Fleek Varness

Osvald fished and worked in the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mines. He returned to Norway to marry Marie Hostad and together they traveled to America aboard the boat, Duchess of Alhold, arriving in Quebec on October 17, 1930.

Osvald Albert Jonasen Varnes
3/6/1900 - 9/3/1972
U.S. Citizenship papers
11/1/1930 in Juneau, Alaska.

Marie Hostad
7/7/1905 - 12/3/1983
U.S. Citizenship papers
10/6/1939 in Juneau, Alaska

They had three children, Agnes, Mary and Oswald Albert. Osvald continued to work in the gold mines. The working conditions were poor and the hours were long. This was during the Great Depression and although the wages were minimal, he felt extremely fortunate to “have a job.”

In the late 1930’s, Osvald decided to return to the fishing industry. He found employment in Seattle and moved the family south. They were the first of a group of Norwegian families to move to Seattle from Juneau. They resided in the Ballard area which is a Scandinavian community and the Norwegians from Juneau remained a tightly knit group.

The family relied on Osvald’s income from halibut fishing in the spring and summer. This was “seasonal work.” He was a crew member earning a “boat share.” In the fall and winter, he would go trolling and seining for tuna, sardines, salmon, codfish, red snapper, etc. He had a reputation in the trade for being an excellent fisherman and was highly skilled and known for working well with his hands.

Shortly after World War II, Osvald was hired by the U.S. Government to go to China with a group to teach "Modern Methods of Fishing” to the Chinese. His skills, particularly in mending nets, were a major qualifying factor in his being selected for this job.

Marie was a homemaker and she was highly instrumental in instilling the Norwegian traditions which were of great importance to the family. In addition to raising the children and being the homemaker, she began supplementing the family income by working as a housekeeper in a Seattle hotel in the mid-1940’s.

Both Marie and Osvald returned to Norway to visit their families. Osvald returned in 1954, and Marie returned in 1949, and again in 1972.

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